Healthy Gardening Techniques: Keep Your Back in Check and Garden in Bloom

Spring has finally sprung and with warmer months ahead, gardeners are exercising their green thumbs once again. However according to the Ontario Chiropractic Association, 88% of Ontario chiropractors reported that gardening is the most common troublemaker of back and neck pain during the spring and summer months. So while most gardeners are busy digging deep into the earth, they aren’t necessarily considering the increased risks of aches and pains that come pair and parcel with performing those tasks. Here are a few tips that will minimize the pain and help you put more work into growing your garden and less into your back.

Safe Gardening

Warm-up

Take a few minutes to do these quick exercises before you begin your gardening. Warming-up beforehand will help reduce muscle strain, fatigue, and the risk of injury. The following exercises are excellent low-impact stretches which will target your sides, thighs, back, arms and shoulders. During your warm-up, repeat each exercise at least 5 times, remember to relax into each stretch (don’t overextend) and finally make sure to breath and keep hydrated. Let’s begin!

Sides

  1. Extend your right arm over your head.
  2. Bend toward the left arm from the waist.
  3. Maintain the stretch 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Thighs

  1. Steady yourself against a tree, wall or railing.
  2. Bend your right knee and hold the ankle with your left hand.
  3. Maintain the stretch for 15 seconds and repeat with your left knee.

Back

  1. In a seated position, hinge forward from the hips while keeping your head down.
  2. Touch your fingers to the ground.

Wrists

  1. Hold one arm out in front of you with your palm facing down. Bend your wrist until the fingers point to the ground.
  2. Hold one arm in front of you and position your palm in the “stop” position. Use your opposite hand to hold this position.
  3. Place your hands in “prayer” position and place your palms together gently applying pressure.

Arms and Shoulders

  1. Let your arms hang loosely at your sides and rotate your shoulders back and forth. Reach your fingers to the ground.
  2. Hug yourself and slowly rotate from the waist to the left and then the right side.

 

Tips on How to Lift Properly

As simple and straightforward as it sounds, poor lifting technique can really do a number on your back. To avoid the risk of injury follow these easy guidelines to lifting the right way.

  1. Bring the load to be lifted as close to your body as possible – Less force will be needed to lift the object.
  2. Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart – This positioning will provide you with the most amount of control when lifting. Any closer or farther apart will make you more unstable.
  3. Bend your knees and keep your back straight – Bend at the hips and knees only.
  4. Squat down, bending at the hips and knees, to the level of the object and test the weight of the load – Keep your spine in a neutral position. The means keeping a straight back, open chest, and shoulders are back and down.
  5. Ask for help if the load is too heavy to lift on your own.
  6. Use the strength of your leg and arm muscles to lift the load in one smooth and gradual movement – Do not use your back. Your leg muscles are stronger than your back so they should be the main power generator.
  7. Remember to always keep the load close to your body as possible.
  8. Avoid twisting your body while turning and carrying the load
  9. Pivot to turn in the direction you want to move toward – Use your feet to change direction and never twist from the spine.
  10. Slowly lower the load to its new location by bending your knees.

A weekend of gardening may leave you feeling a little achy for a few days after despite your best intentions to follow these guidelines. If pain or discomfort persists for more than a week, or if you experience any direct pain, consult your chiropractor for an assessment and tailored exercises to help keep your body in check.

Happy and healthy gardening!

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